Wednesday, December 31, 2008


May 2009 be much better than 2008! Here are a few of my resolutions for 2009:

1. Exercise more (of course)

2. Lose weight (of course)

3. Use my wheat grinder

4. Bake bread with the freshly ground wheat

5. Make good pie crust

Sunday, December 28, 2008


Years ago my cousin, Catherine, gave me a cookbook by Elizabeth Banks. It is a great go-to cookbook, especially for sweet treats. I made this cake for Christmas brunch and everyone loved it. Another pretty Bundt pan cake that tastes as good as it looks.

1 cup butter
2 cups sugar
2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
3 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
18 oz. sour cream

1 cup chopped pecans
2 tsp. cinnamon
3 Tbsp. brown sugar

Cream butter and sugar. Sift dry ingredients and add to mixture. Alternate with eggs. Mix well. Add vanilla and sour cream (I used reduced fat). Pour half of batter in well-greased and floured Bundt pan. Add half of filling, rest of the batter, and the rest of the filling. Bake 65-70 minutes at 325 degrees. Cool on wire rack. Invert after cake is cooled.

Friday, December 26, 2008


I am really into reading all about the founding of our country and the years following the establishment of the Constitution. American Lion by Jon Meacham fits right in building upon my time with Jefferson, Adams, and Franklin.

Andrew Jackson is not a President I know much about other than to recognize that skinny face with the mop of hair on the twenty dollar bill. But if you think politics are mean and wild now just take a look at the 1830's. Jackson was hard-driving, fearless, and loyal to a fault. At times he was like a dictator not caring about any other facts or opinions but his own--just running towards his goal at all costs.

Since I am often in DC, it is interesting to read about the places Jackson visits while serving as President, without security, sometimes just riding his horse from the White House and down Pennsylvania Avenue.

Meacham is a fine writer, not as elegant as David McCullough, but he's good at giving enough details without getting too bogged down. Sometimes he goes off on tangents and I have to backtrack a bit to the original point. But it is a worthwhile read and I've enjoyed getting to know our seventh President.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008



Favorite things about Christmas:
Reading about the birth of Christ in the New Testament
Singing Christmas hymns every Sunday at Church
Dressing up the house
Trimming the tree
Baking pumpkin treats
Annual Mormon Tabernacle Christmas program
Zoo Lights
Annual Handel's Messiah sing-a-long


Tuesday, December 23, 2008


Obviously, I am addicted to pumpkin. I told my niece, Ellie, that I was making pumpkin scones for Christmas morning and she said, "oh, no, more pumpkin?!?". Not a good sign. But I am telling you these mini pumpkin cheesecakes are the best! Just ask Jennifer, Sheli, Tammy, Lori, and Steve. They are heavenly and my new favorite pumpkin recipe (besides the pumpkin chocolate chip muffins). For the crust, I used some slightly stale Trader Joes Triple Ginger Snaps mixed with generic ginger snaps--it was perfect.

2 1/4 cups gingersnap crumbs
1 1/2 cups finely chopped pecans
1 1/3 cups sugar, divided
2/3 cup butter, melted
1 8 oz. pkg cream cheese, softened
2 large eggs
1/2 cup pumpkin
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp vanilla
glazed walnuts for garnish

Preheat over to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl combine gingersnap crumbs, pecans, 1/3 cup suguar, and butter. Press into bottom and three-fourths up sides of three 12-cup mini cheesecake pans. Bake 6 minutes.
In a medium bowl, combine cream cheese and 1 cup sugar. Using an electric mixer at medium speed, beat until creamy. Beat in eggs, pumpkin, and pumpkin pie spice until smooth. Stir in vanilla extract.
Chill 2 hours before removing from pans. Garnish with glazed walnuts.
Note: This recipe comes from Diana's mother-in-law, LaDawn.

Saturday, December 20, 2008


The thing about pumpkin cookies is in order to look appetizing they need to be frosted. And the recipe for this frosting is so good. It is the lemon zest that makes it just right. The cookies are good, too.

This recipe comes from the Northridge Ward Cookbook.

Ingredients for cookies
1 cup sugar
2 sticks of butter, softened
2 T maple syrup
2 eggs
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground allspice
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/8 tsp. cloves
2 1/2 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/8 tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Add maple syrup and eggs (one egg at a time), mix. Add pumpkin and mix. Sift together flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg and cloves. Add the dry ingredients to the batter and mix. Drop rounded tablespoonfuls onto ungreased cookie shett. Bake for 10 minutes or until lightly golden brown around the edges. Cool on rack.

1 package cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/8 cup milk
1 tsp. vanilla
zest of one lemon
Beat the cream cheee until light and fluffy. Beat in the powdered sugar until smooth. Add milk and vanill and beat. If frosting is too thick, thin with a little more milk. Fold in lemon zest. Frost when cookies completely cooled.

Monday, December 15, 2008


For a few years now my two sisters, niece, and I travel to Disneyland in December. We take a Monday morning flight to Orange County, pick up our rental car and head to Roger's Gardens, have lunch at Fashion Island, and then check-in to the Fairfield Inn across the street from Disneyland and walk over to Downtown Disney. We spend the next two days at Disneyland (and a bit of time at California Adventure Park) and fly home Wednesday night. We always have a blast.

Roger's Gardens is one of my favorite places to visit. My friends never completely understand why Roger's is worth a stop until I take them there. Then they get it! It is a feast for the eyes. Gorgeous plants and flower arrangements everywhere. Beautiful items for your home and garden. Ideas galore. From the moment you walk into the little alcove entrance you see three or four items that would be perfect in your home.

After walking through the many indoor rooms of tantalizing home decor you walk outside to the beautiful landscaped outdoor rooms. Hydrangeas, ivy topiaries, amaryllis, and other stunning flowers are tucked into wreaths, pots, and along walkways. You begin to convince yourself that maybe with the proper care and protection you too could grow these gorgeous plants in the Arizona heat.

Then, as you breath in the humidified air, you snap back to reality and realize the only way a hydrangea will survive in your yard is if it is silk--and that would be just plain tacky. So, while I never buy anything that is actually growing, I do always leave with something for my home. This time it was two little green french pots--don't know where I will put them but they are so pretty. And my sister Lori found two flower arrangements for her family room so she left quite satisfied.

Then on to Disneyland where the entire park is dressed-up for Christmas. We love going in December. Everything at Disneyland is extra festive. And the crowds are not bad.

So we hit the rides and completely enjoy ourselves without any plan of action. No need for a fast pass since the wait is less than 10 minutes, if that.

We leave Disneyland late in the afternoon, drive 15 minutes to the airport and return home where, for once, it is usually colder than the place we left! Yeah!

And we lived happily ever after......I wish!

Sunday, December 14, 2008


Well, not quite. But it was rather exciting to see a a bit of red peaking out under little green tops in the garden this morning. And the lettuce is so tender and sweet that it was perfect on a tuna sandwich this afternoon. We're not exactly living off the land but producing delicious radishes and enough lettuce for a salad is very satisfying.

Saturday, December 13, 2008


I have made this recipe so many times! My friend, Ashley, gave this recipe to me years ago. I have played around with it a bit but she would still recognize it as her favorite pasta dish.

Ashley's Baked Pasta

1 lb. lean ground beef (I use ground turkey)
½ onion diced
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
pepper and oregano to taste (I also add crushed red pepper flakes & kosher salt to the turkey)
1 large jar favorite spaghetti sauce
1 packet of sliced provolone cheese—you need 8 thick slices
1-2 cups shredded mozzarella
1 pint light sour cream
10 Tablespoons parmesan cheese
1 box penne pasta

Cook pasta according to directions
Brown meat and onion together—add spices—after meat is cooked add spaghetti sauce.

In deep large pan (lasagna pan is perfect) layer as follows:

½ cooked pasta
½ cooked meat sauce
½ sour cream
½ provolone cheese
½ mozzarella cheese
½ parmesan cheese

Then start over layering the remaining ingredients. Cook for 40 minutes covered at 375 degrees—remove cover and cook for another 20 minutes.

(The above picture shows olives--I added sliced black olives and it was great.)

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

MEXICAN CHICKEN SOUP - Barefoot Contessa

Ina Garten came through again. I had lots of carrots and onions on hand and wanted to make soup. I found a good, spicy recipe in her book, Barefoot Contessa at Home, for Mexican Chicken Soup. Of course you can make it mild, medium, or spicy depending on how many jalapenos you add. This was very good soup and I would make it again. I think it would freeze well, too. Also, since we don't love cilantro I left it out.


4 split (2 whole) chicken breasts, bone in, skin on
Good olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cups chopped onions (2 onions)
1 cup chopped celery (2 stalks)
2 cups chopped carrots (4 carrots)
4 large cloves garlic, chopped
2 1/2 quarts chicken stock, preferably homemade
1 (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes in puree, crushed
2 to 4 jalapeno peppers, seeded and minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander seed
1/4 to 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves, optional
6 (6-inch) fresh white corn tortillas

For serving: sliced avocado, sour cream, grated Cheddar cheese, and tortilla chips
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Place the chicken breasts skin side up on a sheet pan. Rub with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and roast for 35 to 40 minutes, until done. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, discard the skin and bones, and shred the meat. Cover and set aside.

Meanwhile, heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large pot or Dutch oven. Add the onions, celery, and carrots and cook over medium-low heat for 10 minutes, or until the onions start to brown. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add the chicken stock, tomatoes with their puree, jalapenos, cumin, coriander, 1 tablespoon salt (depending on the saltiness of the chicken stock), 1 teaspoon pepper, and the cilantro, if using. Cut the tortillas in 1/2, then cut them crosswise into 1/2-inch strips and add to the soup. Bring the soup to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 25 minutes. Add the shredded chicken and season to taste. Serve the soup hot topped with sliced avocado, a dollop of sour cream, grated Cheddar cheese, and broken tortilla chips.

Sunday, December 7, 2008


This recipe comes from Pinch My Salt . I had all the ingredients and wanted the smell of pumpkin in my house for one more day. And I haven't used my Bundt pan in a long time so this was a good excuse. Bundt pans make the prettiest cakes and they always slice so neatly. A big plus when you are giving it away to others.

You could glaze this cake but I really like it with a dusting of powdered sugar. A sprinkling makes desserts look so festive.


2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice*
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup sour cream, at room temperature
1 cup canned pumpkin
3/4 cup canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a Bundt pan (or even better, use Baker’s Joy spray).
2. In a medium bowl, sift or whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices; set aside.
3. In a large bowl combine eggs, sour cream, pumpkin, and oil. Beat well with a hand mixer (or use a stand mixer), scraping down sides with a spatula, until everything is well blended. Add flour mixture a little at a time, beating well after each addition, until everything is well combined. Scrape down sides, then blend in the vanilla extract.
4. Pour batter into prepared Bundt pan and bake in the center of a 350 degree oven for 35-45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the cake comes out clean. Let cool on wire rack for ten minutes, then invert cake onto wire rack and let cool completely. Sprinkle with powdered sugar immediately before serving if desired.
Yield: 10-12 servings
Recipe Notes: *Pumpkin pie spice can be substituted with 2 teaspoons cinnamon, 1 teaspoon ground ginger, 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice, and 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg (or make your own combination). Make sure to butter your Bundt pan really well and get into all the crevices. I like to use a spray like Baker’s Joy because I’ve never had a problem with cakes sticking to the pan when I use it.

Note: I, Kim, have not used Baker's Joy--the above note is from Pinch My Salt.

Thursday, December 4, 2008


I read this book a few years ago but today at lunch I mentioned it to a friend. It was great to relive a few of the harrowing accounts of Theodore Roosevelt's expedition down a segment of the Amazon River.

Candice Millard did an excellent job of taking her research and turning it into a book that first, makes you hyperventilate at the very thought of being in the jungles of the Amazon; second, makes you thankful that you will NEVER travel to the Amazon or have the need to carry cyanide tablets; and third, I'm not kidding about the hyperventilating--you feel as if you are actually on this ill-planned expedition.

I loved every minute of this book. Of course, I am a big fan of President Theodore Roosevelt and have read several of his biographies. But if you enjoy well-written, non-fiction adventure stories this is a book I highly recommend.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

EGGPLANT GRATIN - Barefoot Contessa

So I made myself a promise that if I participated in Bountiful Baskets I would not give away or toss a vegetable I wasn't familiar with.

My first test was the collard greens and I passed that test by making the soup which was great.

Last Saturday was my second test--eggplant. I have never cooked an eggplant. So of course, I had to find something good to do with this pretty purple plant.

The Barefoot Contessa never lets me down. I have all of her cookbooks and her recipes are great. Even cutting back on the rich ingredients I have had great luck with her recipes. I found this recipe in her Barefoot in Paris book. It is excellent. I would definitely make this for my sister's family though I probably would not tell them it was eggplant. And I think it would be great served with grilled chicken.

But pretty much anything hidden below the conncoction of ricotta cheese, parmesan, and marinara sauce, all toasty and bubbly on top, would taste good.

Good olive oil, for frying (this always cracks me up--"good olive oil")
3/4 pound eggplant, unpeeled, sliced 1/2-inch thick
1/4 cup ricotta cheese
1 extra-large egg
1/4 cup half-and-half
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup good bottled marinara sauce

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Heat about 1/8-inch of olive oil in a very large frying pan over medium heat. When the oil is almost smoking, add several slices of eggplant and cook, turning once, until they are evenly browned on both sides and cooked through, about 5 minutes. Be careful, it splatters! Transfer the cooked eggplant slices to paper towels to drain. Add more oil, heat, and add more eggplant until all the slices are cooked.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix together the ricotta, egg, half-and-half, 1/4 cup of the Parmesan, 1/8 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper.

In each of 2 individual gratin dishes, place a layer of eggplant slices, then sprinkle with Parmesan, salt and pepper and spoon 1/2 of the marinara sauce. Next, add a second layer of eggplant, more salt and pepper, half the ricotta mixture, and finally 1 tablespoon of grated Parmesan on top.

Place the gratins on a baking sheet and bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until the custard sets and the top is browned. Serve warm.

Note: I cooked the eggplant in a very seasoned pan and did not need to use much olive oil. I also substituted regular milk for the half and half. And I made one gratin not two.

Monday, December 1, 2008


Can you believe it is December 1st?? Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving weekend.

The rain on Thanksgiving was delightful and put me in the spirit to decorate for Christmas. The outside of our house is now decorated and our two Christmas trees are up.

Tammy's tree was decorated with the help of Maddie and Morgan. The twins's think Tammy's tree is the "fun tree" with all the Santa Claus', Snow Whites, and Cinderellas, hanging on the branches. My tree is up and I need to adjust the lights and start the trimming.

The creche is out--we have two--the one my parent's had when we were growing up and one I purchased years ago. I love them both.

Right now a pumpkin spice cake is baking in the oven--I will let you know how it turns out. It is making the house smell heavenly!

Sunday, November 30, 2008


I love corn-bread for breakfast. Especially the day after it is baked when it is little hard and you heat it up and put a little butter and honey on top. My Mom and Dad used to enjoy it for breakfast or lunch, crumbled up in a bowl of milk.

This last year I took the easy way and bought Marie Callender's cornbread mix. It used to be so good, practically cornbread cake. But several months ago I baked a batch and it was not good--even bitter. Then I bought a another mix thinking it would improve if I added a can of creamed corn. Slightly better but still not good.

I found this recipe in a magazine--can't remember which one--but the chef is a Southern cook named Crecent Dragonwagon--isn't that a great name? And this recipe is in her book, The Cornbread Gospels.

I didn't have a cast iron skillet and secretly alway wanted one (I'm not a camper so where was my excuse to purchase one?) Target had the brand I wanted--Lodge Logic--so I bought a 10-inch skillet for around $14.

The cornbread was excellent--crunchy on the edges and not real sweet. And the stone ground corn meal is worth looking for. I found a good brand, Bob's Red Mill, at Whole Foods but I know it's at Sprouts, too.

Crescent Dragonwagon's
Dairy Hollow House Skillet-Sizzled Cornbread

vegetable oil cooking spray
1 cup unbleached white flour
1 cup stone-ground yellow cornmeal
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
2 tablespoons sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup mild vegetable oil
2 tablespoons butter
1. Preheat oven to 375. Spray a 10-inch skillet with cooking spray and set aside.
2. Sift together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt into a medium bowl.
3. In a smaller bowl, stir the baking soda into the buttermilk. Whisk in the sugar, egg and vegetable oil.
4. Put the prepared skillet over medium heat, add the butter, and heat until the butter melts and is just starting to sizzle. Tilt the pan to coat the sides and bottom.
5. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and combine quickly, using as few strokes as possible.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake until the cornbread is golden brown, about 25 minutes. Slice into wedges and serve.

Friday, November 28, 2008


For years I have tried different pecan pie recipes--I could never get the pie just right. If the filling looked done then the crust was burnt. If the crust looked right then the filling was too runny.

One day, Pam told me about her mom's pecan pie recipe and I instantly asked for it. Pam's mom, Phyllis, is a Southern lady--the real deal. So, I immediately knew this recipe would be THE one for me. This is the only pecan pie recipe I will ever make. It is perfection! And I think the secret is to cook the filling BEFORE you pour it in the pie shell.

By the way, Phyllis just celebrated her 80th birthday! Her party, hosted by her three daughters, included darling hats and hand-made boas--it was great fun.

Phyllis' Pecan Pie

½ c granulated sugar
1 ¼ c dark Karo syrup (spray measuring cup with Pam, tip from Phyllis)
3 eggs
4 T melted butter
1 t vanilla
1 c pecans (heaping)
Dash salt

Cook sugar and syrup until mixture thickens—cook on high, then reduce to medium and cook 5 minutes (sugar will be dissolved, syrup consistency)
Beat eggs well
Add hot syrup slowly (or eggs will curdle), while continuing to beat
Add melted butter, vanilla, salt, and nuts
Pour into pie shell; bake in hot oven at 450° for 10 minutes, turn oven down to 300° for 35 minutes

Makes 1 9” pie

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


May your day be filled with family, friends, good food, and an acknowledgement of all the many blessings received.

Here are a few blessings on my gratitude list:

My faith
My fun family
Every single one of my precious friends
My glorious job
My comfortable home
The rain this morning
Living in beautiful Arizona

Enjoy this lovely Thanksgiving weekend...

Sunday, November 23, 2008


For a few years now I have had the book, The Cake Doctor, sitting on my kitchen bookcase. Today I finally cracked open the book and baked the Triple-Decker Strawberry Cake. It was a hit.

The Cake Doctor by Anne Byrn contains recipes that dress-up basic boxed cake mixes. I normally turn all layered cakes into single layer cakes but this time since I was baking the
cake for my niece, Ellie, I decided to honor the recipe and make three layers.

It is such a pretty cake and so delicious. It is also easy to put together. But because it is so good I had to get it out of my house! So, Lori took some cake home, Sheli stopped by and she got a wedge, and then I delivered the remainder to Jennifer and Chris. It's good to have friends who appreciate leftovers!

Here is the yummy recipe:

Triple-Decker Strawberry Cake

Spray vegetable shortening for greasing the pans
Flour for dusting the pans
1 package (18.25 ounces) plain white cake mix
1 package (3 ounces) strawberry gelatin
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup vegetable oil, such as canola, corn, safflower, soybean or sunflower
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup whole milk
4 large eggs
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh strawberries and juice

8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, at room temperature
4 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted, or more if needed
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh strawberries and juice, or more if needed
Garnish:1 cup halved fresh strawberries

Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350. Lightly grease three 9-inch round cake pans with spray vegetable shortening, then dust with flour. Shake out the excess flour. Set the pans aside.

Place the cake mix, strawberry gelatin, flour, oil, sugar, milk, eggs and strawberries and juice in a large mixing bowl and blend with an electric mixer on low speed for 1 minute. Stop the machine and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat for 2 minutes more, scraping the sides down again if needed. The strawberries should be well blended into the batter. Divide the batter among the prepared pans and place them in the oven. If your oven is not large enough, place two pans on the center rack and place the third pan in the center of the highest rack.

Bake the cakes until they spring back when lightly pressed with your finger and just start to pull away from the sides of the pan, 33 to 35 minutes. Be careful not to overcook the layer on the highest oven rack. Remove the pans from the oven and place them on wire racks to cool for 10 minutes. Run a dinner knife around the edge of each layer and invert each onto a rack, then invert again onto another rack so that the cakes are right side up. Allow to cool completely, about 30 minutes more.

Meanwhile, prepare the frosting. Place the softened butter in a large mixing bowl and blend it with an electric mixer on low speed until fluffy, 20 seconds. Stop the machine and add 4 cups confectioners' sugar and 1/2 cup strawberries and juice. Blend on low speed until the frosting is creamy and of a spreadable consistency. If it is too thin, add more sugar. If it is too thick, add more strawberries.

To assemble, place one cake layer, right side up, on a serving platter. Spread the top with frosting. Add another layer, right side up, on top of the first and frost the top. Repeat this process with the third layer and frost the top; the cake should now resemble a torte with the sides left unfrosted. Decorate the top attractively with the halved strawberries. Serve at once or chill the cake for later serving.
Serves 16.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Vegetable Garden Update

Five weeks ago we planted our two vegetable gardens--seeds, no transplants.

As you can see everything is coming up as it should. But, boy is it slow! They sprouted up so quickly that it seemed we would be eating our organic vegetables in a few weeks. But apparently that is only a tease--I can't imagine we'll be eating anything from our garden very soon.

We have the trellis up ready for the sugar snap peas (top row) to start climbing. I have a small fence now in place around the two gardens to keep Kipling from nibling or trampling on the plants.

Two weeks ago I started thinning. Pulling out perfectly healthy teeny tiny plants felt criminal. The picture above shows our sugar snap peas, mixed lettuces, radishes, carrots, and napa cabbage. So you can see why I think it's going to be a while before we actually can taste any goods from our miniscule plants!

Monday, November 17, 2008


Last weekend my sister and I spent a few days in Greer, Arizona. Everything was perfect. We took our time getting there, stopping in Payson for breakfast and Pinetop for lunch. We checked-in to our room, the Birds Nest (see top floor above), at Greer Lodge in the afternoon.

The air was crisp (you know, how Fall it suppose to feel like?) and the sky was a beautiful blue. The lodge supplied bikes so we rode up and down the dirt roads and along the main road checking out the area. The leaves had already dropped off the Quaking Aspens and the Maple trees so the landscape looked even more wintery.

Night time temperatures were around 30 degrees--yeah! Finally, some cold air! And the stars were brilliantly splattered across the sky.

In the evenings we saw a family of racoons and in the mornings a couple of deer. I finished two books and caught up on a bunch of magazines. For two mornings we had the best pancakes ever at Rendevous Diner in Greer.

We took that beautiful drive between Alpine and Hannigan Meadow. Eastern Arizona is my favorite part of the state. All the Colorado Blue Spruce and Engelmann Spruce look like perfect Christmas trees. The elevation is around 9000 so it is even colder than Greer.

Greer Lodge is running some great specials--so if you can take a little time off check out Greer Lodge.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

What's On My Nightstand

Like most readers, I have a stack of books waiting to be read. The dilemma is what to read next.
Often I'll find that although I have this stack of books instead I buy a book I've just heard about. Which is what happened today.

Last night I met Hugh Hewitt at the Center for Arizona Policy dinner. During his speech he mentioned a book that he was thoroughly enjoying, American Lion by Jon Meacham. So I bought it today and plan to take it with me when I head to DC next week.

Meanwhile, the following books are on my nightstand waiting to be read (a few I'm already reading):
Hot, Flat, and Crowded - Thoma Friedman

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The 5000 Year Leap

My friend Jill loaned me the audio version of The 5,000 Year Leap by Cleon Skousen. Mr. Skousen identifies 28 principles used in the establishing of America. He quotes from all the original founders and reminds us of the basic principles our country was founded upon. It is also a good reminder of our Constitution.

After reading John Adams, 1776, and Benjamin Franklin, this book continues my ongoing effort to refresh my knowledge of American history. These books remind my why American History class was one of my favorite high school classes (taught by the tough Dr. Shapiro).

It is an exciting period to read about. Creating and organizing this great country was serious business and we know each of the participants paid a price. I am happy to know that leaders such as John Adams, George Washington, and Thomas Jefferson, knew they had a large role to play but each really wanted to be home tending to their farms. They sacrificed time with their families to do their duty.

Each of these gentleman are quoted at various times acknowledging the hand of God throughout the process of crafting language. This is back in the day when leaders openly acknowledged His hand in all things. No one decried this.

The only downside of listening to this book on tape is the narrator--he has the most boring voice. It would be deadly to listen to his voice if I were driving at night. It's a good thing the subject is so good.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Thai Cucumber Salad

Last weekend in my produce basket I found two hot house cucumbers. I normally don't buy cucumbers--I think they are just ok. Except that I do love the cold little cucumber salad that is served with chicken satay at Thai restaurants.
I combined two recipes that I found on the Internet and tweaked it a bit to make this salad. My sister, Tammy, really liked it as did friends Sean and Jana who are connoisseurs of Thai cuisine given that Sean served his church mission in Thailand and Jana served hers in the Philippines (which I know has nothing to do with Thai food but she does shop at Lee Lee Asian Market in Chandler).

Thai Cucumber Salad
T rice vinegar
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
6-7 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons water
1 cucumber seeded and sliced
1 shallot, sliced
1 red spur chili (I used a red jalapeno)

Mix vinegar, water, sugar, and salt in a small bowl. After sugar has disolved, pour over cucumbers, shallots, and chili. Serve cold.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins

This is my favorite pumpkin muffin. Up until this recipe, I had never tasted the combination of pumpkin and chocolate so I wasn't sure how it would taste. But it sounded so good that I went ahead and baked a batch. Love them!

I think muffins are so pretty anyway and these are extra pretty with the color of pumpkin, the dark chocolate chips, and the sliced almonds that peek out the tops and sides. The combination of these rich flavors make it the perfect muffin for November.

This recipe comes from one of my favorite little cookbooks by Elizabeth Alston.

12 Regular or 48 miniature muffins (make one or two days ahead for best flavor.)
1/2 c (1 1/4 ounces) sliced,unblanched Almonds - toasted
1 2/3 c All-purpose flour
1 c Granulated sugar
1 tb Pumpkin pie spice
1 ts baking soda
1/4 ts baking powder
1/4 ts salt
2 lg Eggs
1 c Plain pumpkin (half of a1 lb Can)
1/2 c (1 stick) butter, melted
1 c (6 ounces) chocolate chips
Heat oven to 350 F.
Grease muffin cups, or use foil or paper baking cups.
Thoroughly mix flour, sugar, pie spice, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl.
Break eggs into another bowl. Add pumpkin and butter, and whisk until well blended. Stir in chocolate chips and almonds. Pour over dry ingredients and fold in with a rubber spatula just until dry ingredients are moistened.
Scoop batter evenly into muffin cups. Bake 20 to 25 minutes, or until puffed and springy to the touch in the center. Turn out onto a rack to cool. Wrap in a plastic bag and keep for 1 or 2 days. Reheat before serving.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Collard Greens!?

Here is another reason why I love belonging to the Bountiful Baskets Co-op: it forces me to find recipes with ingredients I wouldn't normally purchase--like collard greens. I remember my mom making collard greens once when I was a kid. She was from Texas and so fried them with butter--yuck!

So this past Saturday guess what was in my basket? Collard greens. I knew my sister Lori wouldn't want them so I said I would keep them and try to find a good recipe. Love the Internet! I just used GoodSearch dutifully entering Southwest Shakespeare as the designated charity (see Leslie for further information) and found this recipe from Epicurious. It was really good. And believe me, it is not easy to find a healthy recipe using collard greens. Because it is such a southern food it is usually fried or sauteed in butter--lots of butter.

The original recipe called for ham but I made it with some pork my friend Jana bottled for me. And I added 3 cloves of garlic instead of 1 clove and added an extra cup of chicken broth. I would definitely make this again.

Ham and Black-Eyed Pea Soup with Collard Greens
1 medium onion
1 garlic clove (I used 3 cloves)
a 4-ounce piece cooked ham
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 pound collard greens
1 cup chicken broth (8 fluid ounces) (I used a whole 15 oz. can)
3 cups water (I used 2 cups of water)
a 16-ounce can black-eyed peas (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 teaspoon cider vinegar

Chop onion and garlic and cut ham into 1/4-inch dice. In a 3-quart saucepan cook onion, garlic, and ham in oil over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until onion is pale golden.
While onion mixture is cooking, discard stems and center ribs from collards and finely chop leaves. Add collards, broth, and water to onion mixture and simmer until collards are tender, about 20 minutes.
Rinse and drain black-eyed peas. In a bowl mash half of peas with a fork. Stir mashed and whole peas into soup and simmer 5 minutes. Season soup with salt and pepper and stir in vinegar.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Christopher Halloran Photography

A couple of weekends ago my sister, Tammy, and our niece, Ellie, went to downtown Mesa for Blissfest and the MACFest. Our friend, Chris Halloran, is participating in MACFest displaying his gorgeous photography. In fact, his work is so gorgeous that he received a first place blue ribbon for his work.

So now that he is an award-winning photographer, I just had to buy his work to hang in my home. In fact, we all three bought pieces. I purchased the top photograph above--St. Francis of Assisi. Tammy has always loved the neon motel sign of the diver and so that is now hanging in our home and Ellie loved the Calla Lily.

MACFest is going on every Saturday through May from 10:00 am until 4:00 pm. You can find Chris' exhibit on the southwest corner of Center and Main.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Wild Rice Chicken Artichoke Soup

Last night was a very fun Halloween. Lots of friends and neighbors and some really darling costumes and scary costumes.

Since we were about to eat lots of sugary snacks I prepared a really good soup that was a perfect dinner for Halloween night. This recipe is adapted from my friend Eileen's recipe.

Wild Rice Chicken Artichoke Soup

1 lg. onion chopped
3 lg. carrots chopped
2 celery ribs chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 stick of butter or 1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup all purpose flour
8 cups chicken broth
3 cups cooked wild rice
1 cup cubed or shredded cooked chicken
1/4 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper
1 can fat-free or lowfat evaporated milk
1 jar of marinated artichokes, drained
1/4 cup snipped chives

In a large pot saute the onion, carrots, celery, and garlic in butter or oil until tender. Stir in flour until blended. Gradually add broth. Stir in the cooked rice, chicken, artichokes, add salt and pepper. Bring to a boil over medium heat; cook and stir for 2 minutes. Stir in milk; cook 3-5 minutes longer. Add chives.

Friday, October 31, 2008



Pumpkin anything
Decorated houses
Creative costumes
Trick or Treaters
Scary movies
Sugar buzz
Sugar crash
Babies in pumpkin costumes
Front yard friends

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Fall Gardening

Two weeks ago I planted seeds in my garden. This is after solarizing it for eight weeks and adding four cups of Worm Gold in each garden as instructed by my friend Jill Green of Sweet Life Gardens.

We planted spinach, beets, snap peas, carrots, radishes, green onions, lettuce, and napa cabbage. And now they are all sprouting! It is a beautiful sight. I have never planted from seed--last season all plantings were transplants. It is very exciting to plant a seed the size of a grain of sand and two weeks later see tiny green healthy leaves.

Yesterday afternoon my gardens received a little gift. Darcey brought her daughter, Emma, and Emma's friend Megan, to deliver squirmy little worms to the garden. Both 7-year olds happily tossed worms into my two vegetable gardens and Tammy's flower garden. Hopefully the worms are doing their thing making the soil and plants even healthier.

We'll see how our second season of gardening turns out.....

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Turkey Chili

It's that gorgeous time of year--Autumn, the leaves are changing, the mornings are crisp, the evenings cold...wait, no they're not. It's still ridiculously hot and October is almost over! But, my niece, Ellie, has been asking me to make her favorite chili so no matter that we are still running the a/c I made a batch this morning.

I also decided to use some of my dry pinto beans. I have not had great luck in the past soaking and cooking the beans--they've always turned out hard. But this time the beans turned out great. I soaked the beans for 10 hours and then cooked them in the slow cooker for 10 hours on low. Then I added them to the chili. Perfect.

This chili, by the way is very healthy. And if you are familiar with Weight Watchers a cup is only 2 points. Which if you don't know is a screaming deal!


1 lb. lean ground turkey
1 onion chopped
3-4 cloves chopped garlic
1 ½ cups chopped celery

1 red pepper chopped

1 15 oz. can tomato sauce
1 small can chopped green chilies or jalapenos
1 15 oz. can chopped or stewed tomatoes
4 16 oz. cans of beans
1 package taco seasoning
1 package Hidden Valley Ranch Salad Dressing Mix
2 teaspoons cumin
1 6 oz. bag frozen white corn
½ cup water or more depending on your preference

Brown turkey, adding onions, garlic, red pepper, and celery about halfway through. Add the remaining ingredients. Simmer for a bit.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Beautiful Produce

I know I have mentioned the Bountiful Baskets coop before but I wanted you to see just how much produce you receive for $15. This picture was taken after I had removed 4 roma tomatoes, 3 ears of corn, a red onion, and an apple. Our basket consisted of the following: 1 romaine lettuce, 3 zuchinni, 10 red potatoes, 10 roma tomatoes, 2 red onions, 6 ears of corn, 1 cantaloupe, 5 apples, 7 pears, a bag of grapes, 8 bananas, and a box of strawberries. For more information go to

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Chicken Bow Tie Pasta w/Bruschetta

Tonight we had a birthday dinner for my sister, Lori. Since we just received a gorgeous bunch of vegetables and fruit from Bountiful Baskets this weekend I needed to incorporate some of those veggies in our dinner.
My friend Leslie gave me the recipes for the pasta dish and the bruschetta that I made. And both were delicious!
The bruschetta is so easy and pretty (but not easy to photograph so there is no pic). I had some great french bread in the freezer (also from Bountiful Baskets) and did the following with it:
Slice any type of hearty bread--rub with garlic clove and drizzle with olive oil, toast.
In a bowl mix the following:
Chopped tomatoes (I had 4 Roma and they were great)
Chopped red onion (about 1/4 of a large red onion)
Olive oil (I used garlic-infused) - just drizzled a bit
Chopped garlic - 2 cloves
Red Wine Vinegar - a couple of splashes
Salt and pepper
Spoon the tomato mixture on top of the sliced toasted bread--yum yum!
Chicken Bow Tie Pasta
3 Boneless, skinles chicken breasts
1/2 cup soy sauce
2 T ginger - chopped
2 cloves garlic - chopped
2 ears of corn - roasted
2 red peppers - roasted
1 lb. Farfalle pasta
3 T fresh basil or 1 T dried basil
Vinaigrette: 3 T balsamic vinegar and 1/2 cup olive oil
Marinade: Place soy sauce, ginger, and garlic in a small sauce pan and bring to boil. Set aside for 30 min. Pour marinade over chicken breasts, cover and refrigerate for at least four hours. Season with pepper and grill or saute. Remove chicken and let sit for 10 minutes then slice crosswise into strips.
Corn: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Remove the silk from the corn and all but one layer of the husk; dip corn into water to moisten. Cover with layer of husk, place on baking sheet, and roast for 45 minutes. Scrape kernels from the corn and set aside.
Red peppers: Rub peppers with olive oil. Place on baking sheet and roast for 25 minutes at 350 degrees. Remove from oven and place in closed brown paper bag until cool. Peel the blistered skin and remove seeds. Slice peppers into strips. Set aside.
Vinaigrette: Wisk together olive oil, balsamic vinegar, basil, and salt and pepper to taste.
Pasta: Cook pasta according to directions
Toss chicken, corn, peppers and vinaigrette with the pasta.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Care Card

For several years now I have purchased a wonderful little card known as the Care Card. For $50 (tax deductible) the Care Card offers a 20% discount to over 400 stores throughout the Valley. It is produced by the Board of Visitors (the oldest charitable organization in Arizona) and 100% of the Care Card sales price goes to directly to Ryan House, a respite home for children with life-limiting conditions.

The Card is good at participating retailers from October 17 - October 26. And the stores are great! I'm talking Williams-Sonoma, Pottery Barn, Domestic Bliss, Ann Taylor, Anthropologie, Gap, Restoration Hardware, I could go on and on. Instead, go to the website and take a look yourself-- The 20% discount can really take the sting out of dreamed-about items from some of these stores.

Happy shopping! And remember, it's for a great cause!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Buttermilk Salad Dressing

Since I had leftover buttermilk from the banana muffin recipe, I started searching for some recipes that included buttermilk. I found an easy and delicious buttermilk salad dressing which couldn't have come at a better time given that we have a ton of vegetables in the house.

My sisters, Tammy and Lori, and I participated in the Bountiful Baskets Food Co-op this past weekend and we all have a lot of produce. If you haven't heard of this co-op, check out its website You will save some money on produce (if you can eat it all and not let any go to waste!)

This recipe is from Gourmet magazine via and we loved it. I don't know about the calories but since it has so much flavor and is very thin you really don't need much to dress your salad.

1/2 cup well-shaken buttermilk

2 tablespoons mayonnaise

2 tablespoons cider vinegar

2 tablespoons minced shallot

1 tablespoon sugar

3 tablespoons finely chopped chives

Whisk together buttermilk, mayonnaise, vinegar, shallot, sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a large bowl until sugar has dissolved, then whisk in chives. Done!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Banana Muffins with Cream Cheese Filling

We had a beautiful morning today--opened the windows for a while (that was a treat) and enjoyed a great General Conference. Hope and gratitude! That was definitely the message I received this weekend.

And I also tried a new recipe. My sister, Lori, had some over-ripe bananas that she didn't want so I used some in a new banana muffin recipe and stashed the rest in the freezer.

This recipe comes from a blog I visit now and then called Pinch My Salt It is very easy and while the muffins are not beautiful (I'm sure yours will be) they are delicious. Enjoy!
Cream Cheese Filled Banana Muffins
4 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
Muffin batter:
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup sugar
2 bananas, mashed
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup oil
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 12-cup standard muffin pan.
2. In a small bowl, beat together cream cheese, sugar, and egg. Put bowl in refrigerator while you make the muffin batter.
3. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and soda, salt, and sugar; set aside.
4. In a medium bowl, whisk together bananas, buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vanilla.
5. Pour wet ingredients into the large bowl filled with flour mixture then stir with wooden spoon just until the mixture is combined.
6. Spoon enough batter into muffins cups so that they are just under halfway full. Add one spoonful of cream cheese mixture into each cup, then top with remaining muffin batter. Muffin cups will end up being almost completely full.
7. Bake for 20-25 minutes at 375 degrees. Check after 20 minutes, muffins are done when a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean.

Saturday, September 20, 2008


I know we still have a few more months before 2008 is over (may 2009 be much, much better). But I was with a group of great friends last night discussing favorite (and not so favorite) books read this past year. Here is a list of our top 12 favorite books for this year:

Luncheon of the Boating Party - Susan Vreeland

Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life - Steve Martin

Three Cups of Tea - Greg Mortenson

Loving Frank - Nancy Horan

Leadership and Self-Deception - Arbinger Institute

Team of Rivals - Doris Goodwin

My Name is Asher Lev - Chaim Potok

Virgin of Small Plains - Nancy Pickard

The Clan of the Cave Bear - Jean Auel

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society - Shaffer & Barrows

The Third Option - Vince Flynn


Watership Down

Out Stealing Horses

Farewell My Subaru

The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox

Friday Knitting Club

Summer at Tiffany

Thank You for Smoking

The Book Thief


Rise and Shine

The Chosen

Here be Dragons

Enchanted April

The Sum of Days (or anything by Isabel Allende)

Unaccustomed Earth

Happy Reading!

Mini Lemon Cheesecake

I tried a new recipe and it was a hit so I am sharing it with you.

This is originally from the July issue of Victoria magazine. I am always leary of recipes from magazines that aren't devoted to cooking becaue I've had problems in the past. This one was no different. First the recipe is called Lemon Tartlets--they aren't really tarts, more like cheesecake. Then it called for an 18 cup mini cheesecake pan--no such thing. After a ridiculous amount of research I could only find a 12 cup mini cheeecake pan (for $24 at ABC Cakes in Phoenix, what a fun little shop).

While making the filling I added more lemon juice, which is reflected in the recipe below. There is enough filling for 12 mini cheesecakes but I had a lot of the crumb mixture left over which I tossed.

But these are super easy to make and very yummy--enjoy!

2 cups gingersnap crumbs (made from about 1 lb cookies, finely ground in food procesor)
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon butter, softened
1 egg white
1 (8 oz.) package cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg
3 tablespoons lemon zest
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (recipe called for 1 tablespoon)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat over to 350 degrees
In a large bowl, mix together the gingersnap crumbs, brown sugar, butter, and egg white until well blended.
Evenly divide the gingersnap mixture between each well of a 12 cup mini cheeecake pan. Press the mixture into the bottoms and up the sides of the wells (it won't go up too much on the sides), bake for 8 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.

In a large bowl, combine the cream cheese, sugar, egg, lemon zest, lemon juice, and vanilla extract. Using an electric mixer at medium speed, beat until the mixture is smooth, about 4 minutes.

Evenly spoon the filling into the prepared crusts; bake for 10 minutes, or until the centers are set. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool. Garnish with lemon zest strips or a rosette of whipped cream.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Cook's Illustrated & Tilapia Fish

My friend, Cassandra, was lucky enough to unexpectedly receive two free issues of Cook's Illustrated Magazine. And I was lucky enough to have them passed on to me.

Cook's Illustrated is about a 35-page magazine (with no ads!) that tests all sorts of favorite classic recipes (the best brownies, the best roasted chicken, etc.), cooking products, and new ideas. You probably have seen the Founder and Editor, Christopher Kimball, on our local PBS station (wonkish-looking guy with the bow tie and wire-rimmed glasses).

I love this magazine! I love when they test the best pizza cutter and it turns out to be the less expensive OXO Good Grips 4 inch pizza cutter that you can get for around $8 at Bed, Bath, and Beyond with one of the dozens of 20% coupons you have lying around the house.

But here is the latest tip I wanted to pass on. I know a lot of you prepare tilapia fish and may have noticed that sometimes it can have a muddy flavor. The test kitchen tried a few ideas and found the best thing is to soak the tilapia in buttermilk for one hour before cooking. Then rinse off the buttermilk, pat the fish dry, and proceed with your recipe. I will definitely try this the next time I cook tilapia.

Cassandra is now subscribing to the magazine and since she saves nothing (maintaining her clutter-free house) she is going to pass them on to me--yeah!

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Pandora's Music Box

Just returned from spending a week attending BYU Education Week. You can't go wrong spending time in Utah during the hideous month of August.

My sisters, Lori and Tammy, and my friend Linda, and I traveled together staying at our friend, Julie's beautiful, large, and comfortable home in Provo, Utah. We did this last year and had such a great time we wanted to repeat. You know how sometimes repeat trips just don't work as well as that first trip? Well, that didn't happen. It was just as great as last year.

Every year BYU offers a ton of classes for adults with topics on religion, parenting, communication, the arts, etc. One of the classes I loved was all about classical music. I learned about a free personalized internet radio service called Pandora

Click on Pandora, register for free, and start selecting music that appeals to you. Pandora will select music that you may like based on a "thumbs up" or "thumbs down" rating that you select--similar to TIVO. Pandora come from the Music Genome Project which analyzes music and breaks it down to somehow figure out what a person likes (I am totally paraphrasing). However, I am finding all sorts of new pieces that I am loving. A piece by Carl Stamitz is playing as I type this. I put in Mozart and Mozart-like pieces come up. I really wasn't familiar to Stamitz but I'm liking his music. See below for a sample.

Symphony In D Major "La Chasse": II. Andante
performed by: London Mozart Players
play sample
Loading SamplePlaying SamplePlay Sample
Features Of This Song
Classical stylings
a symphony orchestra
tonal harmony
major key tonality
a walking pace tempo
an emotional aesthetic
a symphony

These are just a few of the hundreds of attributes cataloged for this song by the Music Genome Project.
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